The Final Bow

This is my final thing to say as The Pfister Narrator…believe me, it’s not the final thing to say as Jonathan West.

I’d like to take you back to July 7th, 2001. On that hot summer day, a stocky, dark-haired figure sauntered into the lobby of the Pfister Hotel. His palms were sweaty and perspiration soaked his t-shirt. He was nervous, his stomach flipping with anxiety. The Pfister didn’t really feel like his sort of joint. His finances were stretched, work was weighing down on him, and a hand injury that he had suffered weeks before left him without feeling in two of his fingers; tough stuff for a guy who liked to write stories about his life and sappy love notes to the woman who had agreed to marry him. But underneath it all, that guy (it’s me, folks, if you were confused by the reference to dark-hair, something that I actually had back at the turn of the last century) was just another schlub who was easily distracted by grandeur and unnerved by the feast of the senses offered at the Pfister.

My trip those many years ago was made in anticipation of the single greatest day of my life. I speak of the day I stood in front of another group of people and said, “I do!” to a dishy lady who was not short on opinions and somehow could schedule her life and mine for the next 17 years while chatting with me on a 9-mile jog. Paula Maria Suozzi had stolen my heart, and because we were getting married in six days, I had come to the Pfister to buy a shirt.

I was lucky that a classy lady had agreed to marry me, so I had made my own decision to show up for my wedding day in a classy shirt. Back then, that meant one thing for a man of distinction living the large life in Milwaukee. “Get thee to Roger Stevens at The Pfister, sir!” was the herald’s call when a nice shirt was warranted.

I had saved up a few Lincolns…well, truth be told, a few Franklins…so I’d be able to pick up a swell shirt. I was not to stray, and my finances wouldn’t really let me, so my shopping list had one item on it, and one item alone. A pink shirt.

I probably should have seen it coming, the moment I walked into Roger Stevens. I immediately became distracted. No way was I getting out with only the new shirt I was going to have on my back. When I saw the wall of bow ties, I knew there was going to be trouble.

I’ve been a bow tie man for a long time. In planning for my wedding day, I had in mind a certain tie from my carefully curated collection that I would wear. But that plan vaporized when I got distracted by a simple, elegant bow tie that I knew would go perfectly with my soon-to-be-bride’s dress. I did a little quick math in my head, kept the cash I had in my pocket, pulled out a credit card stressed to the point of exploding, and bought a gorgeous pink shirt and a patterned bow tie with an elegant dark red, black and gray pattern.

The tie was ideal. It was a perfect accompaniment to Paula’s dress. We marched down the aisle, celebrated with our family, and capped off the day of our wedding by checking into the Pfister for our first overnight stay as husband and wife. Our marriage was off and running as we sunk deep into the luxury of the Pfister, a perfect couple stylish beyond belief and ready to tackle anything that came our way. My own distraction had worked like a charm this time.

But distraction wasn’t always so fruitful for me as we left the Pfister after our wedding night and started to live life. I had spent a lot of my life coasting by, indulging in distractions that were not necessarily the best or healthiest things for me. My distractions brought about a tendency towards bad planning and bad choices. Perhaps a smarter man would have learned his lessons earlier, but I kept getting distracted never really fully working towards the life I dreamed of living as a man, husband, provider, artist and first and foremost, a writer.

As my distractions diverted me from doing the hard work I needed to do towards all my life’s pursuits, my wife’s laser focus became sharper and sharper. Never one to mince words, Paula kept at me, verbally giving my keister a kick until distractions could no longer be a constant excuse I could hide behind. Paula, more than anyone, kept saying, “You can do this, you numbskull…just focus.”

Which leads me to today and the capstone on a most extraordinary year. A little over a year ago I had left a good job with a vague idea of “wanting to write more.” I was reminded around that time that the Pfister was in its annual cycle of looking for new candidates to fill the Narrator role. I had applied to be the Pfister Narrator a couple of times before, but in each attempt, I had done it sort of half-heartedly, pretty distracted by everything around me. When I mentioned throwing my hat in the ring one more time, who do you think was the first to tell me to step up my game, clear away all the distractions and get to work? I continue to call her the prettiest lady I know with the sharpest mind to boot.

When I think of my final bow as the Narrator, it’s a simple choice. It’s the one that I was distracted by many years ago here at the Pfister. Though I’m no longer a drinker, I proudly am tying one on in celebration of the Pfister, forever for me a symbol of incredible possibility, a place for great starts and legendary endings.

Thanks for reading. My heart is full with gratitude for a year of bliss.

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10 at 100

This is what they call my penultimate post. The second to the last. It’s also number 100.

I generally prefer words over numbers, but I had in my head a number that I wanted to hit this year in terms of posts I created as my contribution to the Pfister Blog. That number was a nice and round 100, the place we are right now. But then I had something more to say, so I’ll leave you later today with post number 101.

In these 100 posts, I’ve written close to 60,000 words, basically a nice sized novel. I’m sure pleased that I got to tell these stories this year, but I leave my role as Narrator also reflecting on all the tales that I never did tell. Some moments didn’t warrant a full story, and some are the sort of things that could make a particularly dirty sailor blush. I’ll keep those memories stashed in my notebooks as I’m certain they will come in handy down the road in other writing that I have in mind for the future. The memories of things seen and heard at the Pfister are really the gift that keeps on giving to a writer.

I did, however, feel that there is a certain sense of occasion and ceremony when you hit the 100 mark. To that end, I wanted to share the Top 10 Things I Never Wrote About. I hope somewhere down the road you’ll come across these moments again woven into the fabric of a short story, book, play or screenplay that bears my name as a writer. They were all great encounters, and I know sooner or later they will be the perfect spice for a full meal.

  1. That day when the homeless artist tried to draw my picture in the Lobby Lounge. It was a sad and tender memory, and one where I saw the Pfister Associates show what decent human beings they really are.
  2. Pfister Building Engineer Matt Eells giving one of the greatest speeches any human being has ever made at former Artist-In-Residence Todd Mrozinski’s farewell night. I bow to Matt’s eloquence and charm.
  3. That elevator ride with Donald Driver where he complemented me about how nice my bow tie was.
  4. Every public men’s restroom at the Pfister. I made it a goal to visit them all…and I have strong opinions about which is the best one.
  5. The night I was having drinks with friends up in Blu and we looked out the windows and sat speechlessly for five minutes as we marveled at where we were as a magical thunderstorm raged outside.
  6. Former Senator Herb Kohl smiling at me as he passed me while I ate one of the 147 Senator’s Tuna Sandwiches created to honor him that I consumed in the Pfister Café.
  7. Kibuttzing with Barbara Brown Lee about life and art.
  8. Watching a mediocre cover band practice “We Didn’t Start the Fire” in one of the Pfister Ballrooms prior to an RNC party after the Fall 2015 Republican Debate in Milwaukee.
  9. The day I met former Milwaukee Bucks player Bob Lanier in the Lobby Lounge and told him I had met his wife in Scottsdale, AZ during a chance dinner meeting and with a raised eyebrow he said to me, “You mean my ex-wife?”
  10. Every dirty joke and loopy story I heard from my pals John, Ray, Elizabeth, Carrie, Scott, Stephan, Erika, Matt, Katherine, Jimmy, Sarah, Leda, Tommy, and others during Pfister lunch, dinner or drinks.

And if you want to hear the really naughty stories, buy me a plate of truffle chips someday and maybe, just maybe, I’ll spill the beans.

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Selfies of the Selfless

There is the family you are born into, and then there is the family you get to pick throughout life. Today, I want to talk to you about a group of people who I am humbled to now call part of my extended family–the Pfister Hotel Associates.

I made a conscious effort this year to stay away from writing about my work colleagues at the Pfister because I wanted to spend my stint as the Narrator telling stories about guests and visitors. Believe me…it wasn’t easy. The stories the Pfister Associates have to tell are legendary, and they all know how to spin a yarn that will keep you on the edge of your seat. I’ve had the great fortune to work with interesting and dedicated people in a myriad of different settings throughout my career, but I cannot recall a group of people as kind, wise, full of heart, industrious and creative as the Pfister Associates.

It would be easy to just call the men and women who make the Pfister run like the finest of Swiss watches “the hotel staff.” That’s a cop out, though, because they are all so much more than mere employees. Associate is a winning title for each member of the Pfister family as it represents the idea that everyone has a unique and interconnected role in making each person who walks through the Pfister doors feel the full impact of grace, welcoming spirit, and real dedication to beauty and joy. The Pfister Associates do just that—they associate. With one another, with each and every visitor, always succeeding in making each individual’s experience at the hotel feel tied to a stronger sense of community than you will likely find anywhere.

I’ll miss seeing all the smiling faces of my friends who make each day great at the Pfister, the ladies and gentlemen who immediately made me feel like family when I began my stint as the Pfister Narrator. I hope you enjoy a few selfies that I took of some of these smiling faces as much as I have enjoyed seeing them throughout the year. I’ll hold onto something that Executive Chef Brian Frakes said to me as he shook my hand after he, Harold and I posed for a selfie. “You’re part of the family,” said Brian with a broad grin. Knowing that I’ve just added a whole new gaggle of brothers and sisters to all the people in my life that I love and admire reminds me that the greatest gift I’ve received this year is one of new friends who have given me more of themselves than I could have ever imagined was possible. Thanks friends. I do adore you all.

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Left Feet Left at Home

You know what bothers me about ballroom dancing?

Nuthin’. Absolutely nuthin’.

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There are two things that you can count on during April in Milwaukee, and that is hot and cold. The cold refers to how you will feel when you read the daily weather report. The hot takes into account that come the third weekend of April the Pfister catches ballroom dance fever.

All the glitz, glamor, and glitz again of competitive ballroom dance is on display as men and women outfitted in a dazzling collection of brightly colored dresses and velvety black shirts make the Pfister home base for the Wisconsin State Dancesport Championships. This competition is so showy, so eye-popping, so over the top that it would be impossible to do color commentary in real time because there are too few words available to describe the hip swivels, turned ankles and bodies moist with fresh dance sweat.

Have you ever been in a room of ballroom dancers who have a lust for the gold medal? It’s unlike anything you’ll ever see, but then again my head might simply be clouded by the haze of hairspray that fills the air. I spent some time watching the dancers strut their stuff, summoned to the Pfister’s 7th Floor Ballrooms by the sounds of rhumba and cha cha. Watching ballroom dance competition is just like watching a great baseball game, except, you know, it’s not boring and there’s a greater amount of sequence and eyeliner on the competitors. Otherwise, just the same, though.

Before entering the ballroom to see bodies in motion, you must walk through a forest of neon clothing and accessories. It’s a heart stopping shopping opportunity for all the dancers doing their dance thing and possibly your dad for his secret “boys only” fishing weekend (dad is sure to catch a big one in his new fishnets and low cut electric blue gown).

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In the center of the floor, dancers perform short routines as a panel of judges mark scorecards. That’s where most eyes are trained, but if you have it in you to look away from the bumping, grinding and gliding, you’ll see that the sidelines are really their own main attraction. It’s there where you’ll see upcoming dancers reapplying makeup and keeping warm in silky robes that are a mixture of “come here, you sexy kitties” and “where’s the spit bucket, I took too many upper cuts in Round Six.” Make no mistake about it, though, ballroom dancing requires great physical agility. And reliable false eyelashes.

On the sidelines you’ll also see cheerleaders, members of dance teams who have come to show some spirit for their pals. I had noticed a particularly energetic red head during the morning dance sessions loudly egging on her team, so I was delighted to run into her later in the day for a little chat.

DSC03804“This is like prom of steroids!” squealed Gloria, a member of the Celebrity Dance Studio from Downers Grove, IL. She and her teammates had come to the Lobby Lounge to kick back with a few glasses of cheer after a morning of competition.

“I’m done for this competition,” explained Connie as her white wine arrived. “Yesterday I danced 18 entries.” I might add that Connie chatted with me as she leaned on her cane, proving without a shadow of a doubt that dancers are badass.

I asked Gloria and Connie about the extraordinary outfits that each dancer wears.

“I just have three outfits,” said Connie. “In my age bracket, I’m running out of competition. I want more competition, you know,” Connie said, tapping her cane to emphasize her point and just remind me that nobody puts Connie in a corner.

“Those outfits costs thousands of dollars,” said Gloria. “The whole package…that’s what you need to win medals.”

Gloria wasn’t competing at this tournament due to some minor ailments, but couldn’t help herself from being the main cheerleader for her team.

“I’m going a little crazy not being able to dance,” she said. “But you know what? That doesn’t mean I can’t be the loudest one in the room!”

Gloria doesn’t need to raise her voice to convince me to turn my head and give ballroom dance a gander. I am in, hook, line and sinker. But I promise you this readers, I’ll stay on the sidelines. You can thank me later for sparing you the site of me in a navel-cut black velour blouse and tight slacks. I’ll leave to the pros for that sort of stuff.

Because you’re good, and read all this way, here’s a like peek at what I got to see today. I have the greatest job in the world, if you weren’t aware.

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My Favorite Place

This is the post that my children have been asking me to write for months.

I have been asked time and time again to answer one question about my experiences at the Pfister.

Where’s your favorite place at The Pfister?

I am not wishy washy on this question. There’s no doubt in my mind about how to answer. Ladies and gentlemen, might I introduce you to the Pfister parking garage.

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Behold the wonder!

You suspected I’d tell you that my favorite spot was Blu, a plush and sophisticated bar on top of the world? Maybe you imagine me claiming the Pfister swimming pool as my ultimate-ultimate? Lobby Lounge? Rouge? Well Spa? Mason Street Grill? Guest Room 1113? The secret vault where they keep all the snack mix? Listen, you can’t go wrong with any spot at the Pfister. It’s all good when you think about the Pfister spaces and places tour.

But that parking garage, oh, that marvelous parking garage. It’s the place where I’ve seen more stories played out as couples with happy smiles load up their overnight bags in the back of sedans or men and women torn asunder by a lovers spat silently slink into separate cars. I’ve narrowly avoided head on collisions, helped confused visitors recall where they parked their cars, and even woke up someone taking a car snooze. It’s a hub of activity and I love it all.

But more, so much more than anything, I will always cherish that parking garage as my favorite Pfister place because of one singular sensation. Or, rather, one singular sense.

The Pfister parking garage smells like delicious fatty bacon. Boom…mic drop…and out.

I noticed the perfume of pork almost immediately when I started parking on-site on a regular basis. Some days it was stronger than others, a shift in the wind helping to raise or lower the sniffability. I walked the ramp one day to see how far the scent traveled…fifth floor was the limit, but third floor was the peak of porkiness.

I’ve traced the source of the smell to the Mason Street Grill kitchen where meats are licked by flames all day and into the night. I can accept this plausible and very real explanation, but that really doesn’t matter to me. My favorite spot will always make my mouth water, licking my chops for salty, fatty, greasy satisfication.

Thank you Pfister parking garage. I love you and all your bacon ways.

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The Pfister Films: THE APPETIZERS

And so we come to the final film, a cheeky little ditty I like to call THE APPETIZERS.

I think it is fitting that THE APPETIZERS is the final film that I’m sharing with you all. It is in so many ways a celebration of the glamour, the sophistication, the romance, the surprise, and the charm that sparkles between so many people who end up falling in love at the Pfister.

THE APPETIZERS is also a tribute to one of my absolute favorite things about the Pfister. But telling you what that is now would be what the kids these days call a spoiler. You’ll just have to watch to find out what my great Pfister love really is.

And before I share this last film with you all, a word to you all about what this film project has meant to me, and perhaps what it can mean to you, dreamer, creator, human being.

Becoming the Pfister Narrator meant a lot of things to me as a writer. It filled me with pride and joy. I pinched myself almost daily, never really fully believing it was true that I was the in-house writer for a stunning historic hotel. I developed friendships that I will maintain and treasure for a lifetime, being afforded the chance to meet all sorts of fascinating characters from a wide variety of backgrounds. More than anything, however, becoming the Pfister Narrator reminded me that the best thing you can do to feel alive is to make things.

I’ve made a lot of things this year. I’ve strung together thousands of words and hopefully have helped readers understand that the Pfister is a truly unique place. Through it all, I was always encouraged to speak with my own voice, and take chances. Even with something as full of pitfalls as making four short films. I never professed to be a filmmaker when I came up with this idea, but I’ve always loved movies. And, for better or for worse, I thought, “What the hell!” As I come out on the other end of making these four short films, I understand that the great joy of the project was to get together a bunch of friends and make something that we all loved creating together and then share it with others. I hope you have felt a bit of the sense of play and wonder that we all had in creating these pieces, ones we finished and were bursting with excitement to share.

I encourage anyone reading or listening to these words to walk down a similar path. You don’t need to make a movie, but by all means, get your friends together, tell stories, have some laughs, and figure out the hard stuff you don’t know how to do along the way. If you’re shooting for perfection at the end of that road, I can tell you that you’re going to be disappointed. If you want to have an experience that you can cherish forever, I guarantee you’ll be paid in great memories over and over again.

I thank everyone who supported this film project for helping me indulge in a dream and open up a part of my creative soul that I hope I can build upon in the coming days, months and years. I’m not quite done with my writing as the Pfister Narrator as I’m taking full advantage of the fact that April has thirty days, but for now, I bring you the finale of my short film project, THE APPETIZERS.

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The Best Dressed Ladies at the Affair

I’m not ashamed to say that I love women. I think if the world were run by women we’d all get things done about 30 years earlier than we do right now and then we could just sit under trees and read books and eat waffles.

Two mere days away from the end of my year as Pfister Narrator I’m pleased as punch to write about two more women. I started my year writing about two female friends and I’m really pleased to come full circle with this nice little greeting story about Mary Beth and Sue.

I hosted a farewell event at the Pfister on April 22nd in the Rouge. For those of you who attended I hope you will agree with my assessment…it was perfect. It was the ideal culmination of a year of writing and I got to show the films I wrote inspired by Pfister experiences that talented actor friends of mine had graciously agreed to act in.

I had suspected that it might be a “friends of Jonathan night”, one of those evenings when I looked out at the bodies in chairs and saw friendly faces that I recognized from other walks of life. Indeed, there were plenty of friends in the room, but at the back of the Rouge where we were all assembled I noticed two superbly beautiful ladies. I didn’t know who they were, but I was determined to find out by the end of the affair.

At the close of my program last Friday, these two very well dressed ladies approached me as I huddled with my wife talking about how the event had gone. Paula noticed the ladies and sensing that they wanted to talk with me winked and said, “I think you have some fans.”

Mary Beth and Sue were decked out to the nines. It takes a lot for me to feel dressed down as I’m normally out and about in a suit, bow tie, and brightly shined shoes. But these ladies made me feel like I could have looked a little nicer for my finishing event as Pfister Narrator. They were runway ready.

Playing to my ego, Mary Beth and Sue asked if they could take a picture with me. I was eager and ready to smile for these ladies, but ever the inquisitor, I had to understand why they had showed up at this closing Narrator affair and why they wanted to flank me in a picture.

“We read about this show in the Pfister’s blog and thought it would be fun,” said Mary Beth. Sue jumped in adding, “We got all dolled up because it is the Pfister after all!”

The ladies were complete dolls and asked me to pose for a picture with them to commemorate the night. I obliged and heard them tell me about their first time at the Pfister for a prom, which Mary Beth arrived at after a lubricating trip to John Hawk’s Pub back in the days of younger drinking ages and feathered hair.

Mary Beth and Sue told me that this was a big night for them, an occasion where they could pull out their best dresses, make the drive from Racine, order a smart cocktail, and watch some unknown nerd in big dark glasses tell stories into the night. They shook my hand and invited to Blu for a cocktail, but tired old man that I was, I demurred and sought out my children and wife so we could tuck in for the night. I might have blushed realizing that I had met my first fans face-to-face, but I’ll always cherish those sweet faces as ladies who showed up just because the Pfister was doing something new and interesting. In the midst of a spectacular night, it’s always great to meet some supremely spectacular women.

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The First Forty Years

When you have been married to someone for 40 years, practical wisdom on how to really keep a marriage strong comes easy.

“Late at night when you’re watching television loud, make sure the room you’re watching it in is plenty far away from your wife so you don’t disturb her,” said Keith with an all-knowing grin. Sue Ellen, his wife of 40 years flashed her pearly whites in agreement. It seems he wasn’t kidding. Hearts and rainbows be damned, these love birds really got it going and understand the brass tacks of happy matrimony.

Keith and Sue Ellen had come to the Pfister this past week for brunch to celebrate their 40th Wedding Anniversary. It was a “to-the-day” celebration, coming to the Pfister on an overcast, slightly rainy day just like they had some 40 years ago. It was a trip down memory lane with friends, complete with a couple of special surprises.

The Pfister’s Chef Concierge Peter Mortenson proved once again that he has mad powers of astonishing force by researching the exact room that Keith and Sue Ellen had spent their wedding night in 40 years ago. Along with the couple’s married friends Greg and Sue, and Mary and Dan, I had the distinct pleasure to accompany them for their journey back in time.

Peter had kept the whole thing under wraps, and as the couple arrived prior to their brunch reservation, we greeted their wedding anniversary party so he could inform them that he had organized a little hotel tour prior to brunch. We all snuggled into an elevator stopping briefly on the seventh floor to visit the beautiful glittering ballrooms before our final destination, their bridal suite of years gone by. As we tucked into the elevator after our pit stop, Peter had a brief interchange with a fabulously mustachioed man sharing the ride up.

“Is everything set for the picture later today, Mr. Fingers?” said Peter, politely addressing legendary former Brewer pitcher Rollie Fingers, who still sports his trademark handlebar mustache, even if it’s a bit more salt and pepper these days than jet black like it was when he was throwing heat on a regular basis.

Rollie Fingers gave Peter a thumbs-up and exited a floor before our party. Keith and Sue Ellen, baseball lovers of note, arched their eyebrows and with looks of amazement said, “Peter, did you arrange for Rollie Fingers to be in our elevator, too?” Peter explained that it was just a chance meeting, but I’m going to chalk that one up to divine providence.

We arrived at the couple’s 1976 honeymoon suite and Peter explained that he had figured out which room Keith and Sue Ellen had stayed in and was delighted to share this treat with them as a special bonus for their day of celebration. I’ve seen some pretty appreciative people during my time as Pfister Narrator, but the looks on everyone’s faces that day will be burned in my memory forever. The sort of excitement that everyone was feeling as they stepped through the door made it seem like we were back in the bicentennial year when Sue Ellen had been decked out in an elegant frock and Keith and his groomsmen had sported red, white and blue bow ties that bridesmaid Mary had made for the boys.

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Peter, major domo master of revels, is high charm mode.

The friends all gathered together and reminisced about the day. Sue Ellen’s bridesmaids Sue and Mary recalled that the newly married couple left their reception without any of their wedding gifts. I learned that the bonds of friendship amongst the group had been formed over 40 years earlier prior to the wedding when all the couples had lived in the Normandy Village apartment complex west of downtown Milwaukee. Jokes flew through the room the way that they do between people with an easy shared shorthand, and it was clear that these six had surely had some high times together over the years. I took cameras and snapped pictures back and forth, the girls together, then the boys, then all the couples, with smiles growing bigger and bigger on each shot we took.

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Keith, Sue Ellen, Sue, Greg, Mary and Dan…friends for life.

I couldn’t help but notice that the room we were in was set up with two double beds separated by an aisle. It seemed oh so 1950s television for a honeymoon suite. Teetering towards an indelicate question, I asked Keith and Sue Ellen, “Were there two beds in this room the night of your wedding?”

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The married couple bridging the divide.

Keith and Sue Ellen smiled devilishly at each other, and gave me a laugh. “No,” said Keith. Sue Ellen finished his thought saying, “I remember that there was only one bed back then.” Forty years and counting, and all the memories of brides, grooms, wedding parties, and the secrets of pillow talk are absolutely keeping the love fires aflame for this happiest of happy couples.

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The Pfister Films: SOMETHING OLD

SOMETHING OLD is the title of today’s film, number three in my four-film mini-fest. I will explain how this film came to be in a short spell, but first I would like to lay out for you all the compelling reasons why the final cut of this film may result in the discovery of my cold and dead body floating face down in a swimming pool in a sort of noirish SUNSET BOULEVARD plot twist.

The process of getting to the cut of SOMETHING OLD you will see in a minute is a perfect example of a writer’s never ending quest to not put crummy writing out in the world. I love to write, but what I really, really love to do is rewrite. I love rewriting so much that I’m never afraid to “kill my darlings”, the process of editing away bits of prose that might seem really clever and brilliant on a first pass, but with distance and reflection seem to do disservice to a story. I have killed many darlings over the years, and in the case of SOMETHING OLD I took the unprecedented step of leaving my own sainted mother on the cutting room floor.

What I thought was my final version of the script for SOMETHING OLD included a final, brief scene between the main character, Pamela, and a sweet woman she runs into. I wrote the role of the sweet woman and realized as I read it over and over again that my very own mother would be perfect for the role. So, I texted mom (my mom is quite handy at sending texts) and asked her to act in my movie. Like a trooper, my Mom learned her lines overnight, showed up early for her scene, didn’t bump into any of the furniture, and really nailed the part.

I walked away from filming that scene with my mom and felt we had it in the bag. Then I sat down to edit the film and watched the scene a few times. I could sense something wasn’t right. My mom and Katherine Duffy, the talented young lady playing Pamela, did great work with what they were given in the scene. That is to say, they elevated the material. What is all the more admirable about that elevation is that they did it with a stinky part of the script. That’s right, I wrote a real dog of a scene, and I realized as I watched it repeatedly that it had to go.

So, I did what any malcontent writer does. I rewrote. And then I rewrote again. And finally I rewrote some more. And while I was doing all that tinkering my mother hopped on an airplane and flew to London. As mom was having tea with the royals, I was recasting her in this short film. There are about 59 layers of guilt built into my decision to recast my mother while she was far away on another continent, let me tell you.

But now the film seems right to me. The rewrite makes a lot of sense to the whole story arch. It’s quirky and goofy and tinged with melancholy. It’s exactly the feeling I had when I encountered the young woman in the lobby lounge who inspired the story behind SOMETHING OLD. I hope you enjoy giving this a view. It was a rare treat to make…expect that part about kicking my mom to the curb, of course.

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It’s Great! What More Do You Need to Say?

We all stood in the hallway shoulder to shoulder. Smiles all around. There was a feeling of shared hoopla on a recent Friday night as I stepped into a ground floor elevator with a band of gals and guys who were out on the town making mischief. You could see the revelry in their eyes, and, sure, I might have also been able to smell it on their cocktail scented breath.

Heather flashed a big smile my way and said, “I love your bow tie.” I thanked her for the complement and she then fished around to see what my deal was, why in the world were she and her friends trapped in an elevator with a dork like me in a suit and tie. I told her I was a writer, the guy who got to tell the stories of the throngs of men and women who came to the Pfister for merry good times full of cheer. It was as if I had dropped an exuberance bomb for our ride 23 floors into the sky.

Heather and her pals Jackie, Ted, Chad and Amanda lit up like Christmas trees on fire, ready to talk, squeal and scream about all the good stuff in the world. Well, not so much Amanda. Amanda was playing it cool. Super cool, and you don’t need to try too hard when you’re super cool.

I asked the game of friendlies where they were from and almost in unison like they had been given five-dollar bills by the local convention and visitor bureau they proudly announced their Milwaukee hometown roots.

To a person I could tell they all loved Milwaukee, so I asked them all, “What’s your favorite thing about Milwaukee?”

Out came a strong a unified message, surely pitched with just the right tone to make me see that it was the truth, and nothing but the truth.

“It’s great!” exclaimed Heather.

“It’s great!” belted Jackie.

“It’s great!” hollered Chad.

“It’s great!” tooted Ted.

Amanda raised an eyebrow. When you’re cool as a cucumber, your brows can do all the talking. I could tell hers were saying, “It’s great!”

The walking party bus was headed to Blu to continue their Friday night fun night, and when we arrived at the 23rd floor they poured out of the elevator and almost cartwheeled right into the bar. They beckoned me to follow, but I realized I had left a notebook on the ground floor, so I waved goodbye and headed back down. I planned to travel back up after retrieving my notes, so I suspected our paths would cross again.

With notebook in hand, I caught another elevator and made my way to the sky. The doors of my elevator car opened on the 23rd floor, and who do you think greeted me tumbling in to make a ride back downstairs but the fun bunch I had just left at Blu.

I asked them what was going on and Heather, by now their legitimate spokesperson, said, “That bar is not our scene. We’re headed out. Maybe we’ll see you around!”

The doors closed and I knew things would turn out okay for Heather, Jackie, Ted, Chad and Amanda out on the streets of old Milwaukee. After all, as I had just learned from one of Milwaukee’s finest happy times teams, “It’s great!”

Follow me on Twitter @jonathantwest for more smart remarks and snappy retorts.